Ireland can excel in R&D, says Xilinx boss


28 Oct 2005

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If companies conducting research and development (R&D), their customers and the various universities create the right team-based environment for innovation, Ireland could soon be take its place among the world’s top innovative nations, the managing director of Xilinx Ireland Paul McCambridge told siliconrepublic.com.

McCambridge, who is also vice-president for Europe at Xilinx, was one of the original band of senior technology executives who lobbied for the Government to look away from manufacturing and the low wage model for inward investment and focus instead on the more lucrative field of R&D and innovation.

Yesterday, Xilinx officially opened its €7.5m Xilinx Research Labs operation that will carry out speculative research to invent and discover technological solutions that will create new business opportunities or advance its current business.

Regarded as a jewel in the crown of Ireland’s ICT community, Xilinx has designated Ireland as its regional headquarters for Europe, which now accounts for 21pc of group turnover. Xilinx, which makes microprocessors for a range of industrial applications, employs more than 400 people at the facility in Citywest Business Campus and expects to increase that number to 500 over the coming years. In March 2003 the company unveiled a new €52m extension to its R&D, design and operations centre in Dublin. Earlier this year, local executive Kevin Cooney was appointed chief information officer of the company and now runs Xilinx’s global IT operations from its European headquarters in Citywest.

The company is widely recognised as one of the best managed and most financially sound technology companies in the world. For four years in a row, Xilinx has been named in Fortune Magazine‘s Top 100 Best Companies To Work For. The company’s chairman Wim Roelandts consistently ranks as one of the highest-rated chief executives in the semiconductor sector, based on approval ratings tracked at www.forbes.com.

Roelandts, who was in Dublin yesterday to witness the opening of the new labs, commented: “Innovation is one of our core values. The foundation of Xilinx and the core of our culture is innovation. Innovation is the only long-term advantage that a company has.”

Also present was Xilinx chief technology officer Ivo Bolsens, who cited the existence of Lucent Technologies Bell Labs and the new Centre for Telecommunications Value Chain Driven Research at Trinity College Dublin as a catalyst for R&D activity in Ireland.

Performing the official opening at Citywest, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin TD commented: “This investment by Xilinx Ireland in R&D further enhances the company’s profile as a model of how an international company in Ireland can develop beyond its original mandate to become a key link in the company’s global chain. Since the establishment of Xilinx Ireland in 1995, the company has invested in excess of €125m in the largest facility operated by Xilinx outside of North America employing 450 people in Ireland. The company has expanded from an initial manufacturing operation to a European headquarters operation, with global responsibility for certain product lines and home to corporate centres of excellence, with a strong culture of creativity and innovation.”

In an interview with siliconrepublic.com McCambridge explained that collaboration, cross-pollination of teams and collective research between companies, universities and state-backed labs is vital to establishing Ireland as a vibrant location to locate R&D and encourage innovation. “If our researchers are just going to do their work and there’s no interaction with the universities then the viability of the Irish economy will be weakened. Therefore we need to produce more engineers from our colleges.

“Companies that plan to conduct research here should move away from the idea of just research and move towards actual innovation bringing together the strengths of teamwork with their customers and academic partners.”

McCambridge continued: “It is important that industry, Science Foundation Ireland and the universities work together as a team. Look at Finland, it’s a small country but has produced a world leader in the form of Nokia. Also look at Israel, in the middle of strife and conflict it has managed to pump out a large number of venture capital-backed start-ups that are heavily engaged in R&D. Can Ireland do what Israel did? Yes, of course. However, if we carry out research in isolation, then we will fail.

“Ireland could lead the world in the R&D space, but not if we don’t work together. This is a global market and every country wants to excel in this space. There are no barriers and intelligence moves quickly around the world.

“Having that intellectual capability and the capacity for the creation of world-leading intellectual property and products is certainly possible for Ireland. It’s all to play for,” McCambridge concluded.

By John Kennedy